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West End strike action avoided as pay agreement is reached

West End theatres... under threat? Photo: Alex Brenner West End theatres... under threat? Photo: Alex Brenner
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West End strike action that had been threatened by backstage workers has been averted, after an agreement over pay was reached between union BECTU and the Society of London Theatre.

The deal brings to an end weeks of fraught negotiations between the two parties, which culminated in both sides meeting at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration service (ACAS) yesterday (November 6).

It is understood the meeting went on into the early hours of the morning, but both organisations finally agreed on a deal that will run for 36 months, with new rates taking effect from December 1.

Under the new deal, staff employed front of house will receive an initial increase of £1 extra an hour on minimum rates, and a total increase in hourly pay over the course of the agreement of 20.1%.

All other staff will get an increase of 4.5% initially, with a further 4% from April 2016.

Both sides will be recommending the agreement to their respective memberships.

Negotiations between BECTU and SOLT began in July, when BECTU first put forward a pay demand for London living wage for workers on three pay grades that were below that rate (£8.80 at the time), and a 6% increase for all other members.

SOLT later came back with an offer – a 1.8% increase – which was put to BECTU’s members to vote on. The result revealed that 97.8% opted to reject it.

Following this, the union gave SOLT 10 days to come back with another offer, or face industrial action.

This resulted in SOLT asking for ACAS intervention.

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